Final Fantasy VII

Publisher: Square Developer: Square
Reviewer: )-( Rocky Released: 9/7/97
Gameplay: 95% Control: 85%
Graphics: 90% Sound/Music: 95%
Story: 85% Overall: 90%

Final Fantasy 7: one of Square’s most popular and admired games in its flagship series. I was excited about its debut and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this little marvel. Final Fantasy 7 contains several innovative features, from 3D environments to an all-new battle system. While I happened to catch minor flaws, they can easily be omitted simply by ignoring them. Nevertheless, this was Square’s biggest step towards acceptance as an RPG publisher.

In terms of story, this is the most confusing plot of the series. It contains many uncanny twists that didn’t fit with the game’s theme. Square tried to connect but these so-called "links" are a little far-fetched in terms of logic. Fortunately, the plot comes together smoothly if you happen to catch every detail that is. The story is one wild roller-coaster adventure along with an okay ending; truly not that impressive compared to Final Fantasy 6.

If you enjoy playing RPGs then Final Fantasy 7 should put a smile on your face, mostly if you’re a true fan of the series. It is RPG based so expect endless hours of nonstop gaming with rarely any breaks in between.

In battle aspects, skirmishes are still turn-based, which is basically a "his turn then your turn" procedure. A mundane outlook, but it sure is fun experimenting with magic spells and their damage capabilities. Unfortunately, nothing much changed from Final Fantasy 6; things just got spiced up for PlayStation standards. Random battles are tedious, especially when you engage in fights once every 5 seconds.

Unlike the linear Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy 7 sends you on various unrelated journeys before moving you to your next destination. It’s easy to get distracted, and you’d eventually forget about your true objectives. I ended up scouring villages just to get myself back on track (although, drifting off can lead you to unexpected treasures and even confrontations with "special" characters.)

The harder the enemy, the more experience points you accumulate. Gaining experience points is typical to any RPG standard and Final Fantasy 7 is no exception. I would have preferred it if I was able to take control of character development, but Final Fantasy 7 lacked this option to a certain extent. I mean, this IS an RPG after all; I am supposed to call the shots, not be subject to poor decisions made by the computer. For instance, why would I want a person who lacks the ability to use good magic to gain magic points?

The most intriguing aspect is the addition of customizing weapons with magical orbs called "Materia". "Materia" is the new game mechanic in Final Fantasy 7. Basically, weapons and armor have a certain number of spaces to insert "Materia", orbs which increase character status and enable them to perform skills such as Deathblow, Black Magic, or Summons. Unfortunately, characters lack individuality since everyone is able to perform these skills. I prefer games with unique fighters and their one-of-a-kind attacks, such as characters found in Final Fantasy Tactics.

The only exception is the ability called "Limit Break". "Limit Breaks" are overwhelming since they deliver the final blow for any battle. Sometimes they’re too strong, making the game less challenging to play. With such a powerful skill, there isn’t much you could do to conjure up some strategy. I like challenges, and FF7 left me hanging in this department.

As with any Final Fantasy, a culmination of various "mini-games" is included. Unlike mini-games from Final Fantasy 9 (the card game), games found in FF7 gave out items worth winning. The best mini-games were Chocobo Racing and Square Duel, where you fight monsters to win rare weapons and other commodities. Gold Saucer is an excellent place to pass time, but overall it loses its fun value due to the lack of activities and games in that area.

I’m used to flat environments, such as the ones found in Final Fantasy 6, and the jump from flat to 3D was awkward. I eventually got the hang of the controls, and even more with a comfortable controller. Learning the basic concepts is easy as you play more and progress further.

Even now, I’m surprised that Square was able to create such marvelous graphics at an early PlayStation age. I look back at other games that debuted at the same as Final Fantasy 7, and not one could match the caliber that Square delivered.

For the very first time, the series introduces the world of 3D, and Square took every ounce of the console’s graphical capabilities. The realistic look of the backgrounds was just superb and a definite leap from its predecessor. The texture of the buildings looked as if they were pictures taken of real structures. The shadowing effect was also initiated quite well and blended nicely with the contour of the game.

I’m relieved that characters, during battles, are finally moving and signaling life. The 3D sprites look terrific and it’s surprising to see the visual effects when they initiate attacks. The way Cloud performs his "Limit Breaks" is something you have to witness for yourself. Characters move smoothly but not as smooth as characters in later Final Fantasy titles. The main characters are uniquely crafted and very memorable; I can still picture the cigar smoking engineer, Cid. Unfortunately, the characters look like mere polygon figures when they’re seen outside of battle. It didn’t bother me much, but it was a definite turn-off compared to how well backgrounds were rendered.

The cinematic cut scenes were fantastic, I just wish that there had been more of them. The game lacks a great introduction, unlike Final Fantasy 8, but it did set the "mood" of the game perfectly. The ending is short and sweet and didn’t really "end"; it was more like a "to be continued" type of ending.

No other video game series exhibits the same musical integrity as Final Fantasy. The ensembles were catchy and accentuated the "mood" of the game, whether it was trying to convey suspense or jubilance. Final Fantasy music has never failed to amaze me ever since my first experience with the series. The village tracks are excellent and the same goes for most of the battle music. I love listening to the music, and most of the best tracks still linger in my head. Once again, Square proves that falling short in the musical department is not their idea of progress, and they express this robustly in the sound department.

I finished Final Fantasy 7 and the experience was quite gratifying. Just like any other Final Fantasy game, FF7 return to its roots with the use of familiar enemies and staple music from the past. Improvements are apparent, and I for one am impressed with Square’s achievement in game play and integrity. Great Job Square!

)-( Rocky

The Summon Spells in FF7 were without a doubt the most impressive magic attacks in any RPG.

The pre-rendered backgrounds are incredibly detailed and look really great.

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